Kayley Collum, Catholic Register Special

By  Kayley Collum, Catholic Register Special
  • August 27, 2007
Every few years I get the opportunity to visit my grandparents’ cabin in the small town of Hope, B.C. Just a few hours from Vancouver, the cabin itself may not seem like much to the average citizen, but to my relatives and myself it is a reflection of hard work, perseverance, fond memories and family.
It is nestled in many trees, away from the streets of the surrounding town. It is small but sturdy and made of wood, simple and plain, yet peaceful, tranquil and constant. The cabin feels like home to me, regardless of how long it has been since I’ve visited, and I believe that our cabin and the story of its creation also stands as a microcosm of the human relationship with the Earth and our environment.

From the beginning, it has been a give-and-take relationship. My grandfather took from the land to build the cabin, log by log, carefully constructing the one-bedroom retreat, careful to protect the ecosystems surrounding it. At first, there was a babbling creek just outside the cabin’s door, a soothing sound in a beautiful place. Salmon would come to spawn in the creek. However, over time, flooding caused the creek to run dry as the intake of the bigger creek, from which the smaller creek received its flow, changed levels.

Yet, just as my grandfather had taken from the land to build the cabin, he knew it was his time to give back to the Earth. My grandfather wrote to the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans explaining the situation and the devastation to the natural ecosystem. He urged them to look at the creek, and, in time, officials arrived to assess the damage. The officials realized that the creek had the potential to become a secure spawning ground for salmon again and worked to rebuild it. A new pipe was installed to ensure there was always water running into the creek, and stumps and logs were added, acting as areas of shade and protection for the salmon and as a natural way to slow down the creek’s current. The creek was named Collum Creek as a sign of gratitude for the dedicated work of my grandfather. A commemorative plaque marks the place today.     

While saving the environment may seem like a daunting task, this story suggests that each of us can work to protect it in our own way. Though none of us can save the world alone, together we can make a positive and significant difference. We must reflect and value our individual relationship with the Earth and the day-to-day miracles we witness: the smell of the rain, new budding flowers, a babbling creek. The Scriptures say as Catholics we have an obligation to take care of each other, but it is also our obligation to take care of the Earth. I truly believe that if we take care of the Earth it will take care of us. As reflected in the story of my grandfather’s cabin, “Let justice flow like a mighty river” (Amos 5:24).

(Collum is a recent graduate from the University of Toronto and is currently a communications intern with the Ontario Ministry of the Environment.)

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